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By Mario “Mayong” Rodriguez, BCBP Ormoc
Sharing delivered during the National Grand Breakfast, August 13, 2016, SMX MOA

Seven years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life. After managing a private hospital for 19 years and helping it grow from 25 beds to 100 beds, I just felt it was time to move on to other things in life. I didn’t really have the slightest idea where the good Lord would lead me. Then I was elected as a member of the Board Of Trustees of the Brotherhood and soon the president called me up to serve as managing director for the Visayas. A tall order but I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder so I plunged into it. At the time, there were 42 communities in the Visayas and visiting each one of them took many of my weekends. But meeting bros and getting to hear their stories in our mission of changing the face of business in their areas made the long trips worthwhile.

Then the 2010 elections beckoned. One night, I joined some friends for peanuts and beer. Most of us were BCBP members. We shared our grievances and frustration about the present local governance in the hands of a family that had ruled for 2 decades. Before the night was over we realized that we could continue grumbling and cursing the darkness or we can start to do something about it. Thus, from an informal discussion over beer and peanuts, was born KAABAG (partner), an advocacy movement for good governance, honesty and transparency in government.

During that election season, the Catholic Bishops Conference issued a pastoral letter encouraging the active members of the church to get involved in politics, to go beyond poll watching, to run for public office based on principled politics. The call hit a nerve. Soon we decided to throw caution to the wind, and on the last day for filing of candidacy, filed our certificates as 9 independent candidates for the city council of Ormoc, 5 of us were BCBP members.

Our campaign was fun. In our rallies we always made it clear to the people that we were running with the best of intentions to serve and not to expect any political largesse from us. We felt no pressures because we only wanted to make a statement: “We will not turn a blind eye and pretend that things are alright”. Originally, winning was not part of the agenda. But soon we started to draw enthusiastic crowds and we began to entertain thoughts of victory on our side. Then the dark side of politics started to set in. As people started to realize we were dead serious about not giving any monetary considerations for votes, we started losing leaders. We had half-expected that to happen. Our group was going against tradition and our people were not ready for it.

As God would have it, out of 9 in the group, I was the only one who won. Honestly, at that time I was lost on what to do. The brothers cautioned me that realistically, I should just do the right thing all the time and try to fiscalize. I could not even be effective as they allowed me to talk but didn’t care to listen. As we all know, democracy is a game of numbers.

1044495_10200354250313406_1118439575_nIn 2013 I knew I can only be effective in public service if I run with a party so I joined a political party with similar V/M but more importantly whose personalities were people I knew, people who shared the same outlook in life, the same perspective in governance. There were 4 of us from BCBP in the party’s line-up for the City Council. 2 of us would make it. Our party captured the majority of the council but our mayor lost. We were still fiscalizers though effective this time as we had the numbers. We had Committee chairmanships and I threw all my energies into it. Typhoon Yolanda and our response to it would dominate our 3-year term. It was only then that I started to gain fulfillment from my government service.

Before I decided to run for the 3rd time in 2016, I had a long talk with my Boss (our Boss). I prayed that if it’s part of His plan to make me serve my 3rd and last term, He would allow me to finally be part of governance and hopefully realize my own dreams to enhance the quality of life of our people, especially in the area of health. He heard my prayers and those of many Ormocanons as our mayor won with the majority of the council thus ending 2 decades of a family dynasty. This time, all 4 BCBP members who ran with the group, won.

We have just started our public service now as part of governance. Whereas before we were not part of planning and can only fiscalize, we are now asked to join executive planning sessions and given the responsibility to help identify priorities. Very importantly our mayor shares our advocacies and always has an open ear for us. This has opened a lot of opportunities for us. Not to say that we don’t face challenges anymore, but working as a team we are able to move forward more easily. This is indeed a more fulfilling responsibility.

Bro and sis, there are over 17,000 elective local gov’t positions in our country. Presently there are 64 members of the BCBP community who are in local gov’t. It is a vast ocean out there. But the good Lord has planted us where we are to bloom and make a difference, no matter how small.

In behalf therefore of the 64 bros and sis in local gov’t, I want to thank all who have helped us on this sometimes very lonely journey. I myself am buoyed up every time we visit barangays and some of our local leaders turn out to be bros in community. I also ask for your prayers that we will have the courage to always do what is right, to serve with the highest Christian ideals of honesty, commitment and competency, ideals taught to us by the Brotherhood and now espoused by our partner in this quest for good governance, the PMTL. We face a very tall order but we all know we serve a God of the impossible and for inspiration, we don’t need to look farther than at our main sharer, Vice President Leni Robredo, this morning.

11Sometime August 2015 our advocacy group KAABAG organized a forum for students, concerned citizens, and leaders from different sectors to discuss about the looming political season and our advocacies. We asked for the help of the “Kaya Natin” movement. To our surprise and utmost delight they replied that they will send their #1 champion, then Cam Sur representative Leni Robredo. So last 04 Sept 2015 she came to Ormoc for a day-long session and spoke to us about the dream that she and her husband, the late Jesse Robredo, had brought to fruition in their home city of Naga, the city that has since become a model of good governance, people’s participation and transparency in government service. Her presence, indeed, gave KAABAG the “shot in the arm” that the members needed to get fired up again.

A month later Rep Leni Robredo would accept her party’s nomination for the vice presidency. Now, she is the vice president of our country.

In a few weeks our nation will again go to the polls to elect 335,000 barangay officials. We will again be given the chance to make a difference in how our country is run. It is our choice. As Pope Francis has challenged us, “go into politics even if it is dirty. You cannot just watch from the balcony. You have to get right into it.”

Let’s get involved so we can all help clean it up.

God bless our country. Thank you and Good Morning.

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